Wednesday, October 23, 2019

By Press Association

Tanaiste Simon Coveney speaking at the Crown Plaza Hotel during the annual Belfast Chamber of Commerce lunch. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said a Brexit extension, if granted, is likely to be a flexible one that would allow the UK to leave the EU prior to the end of January.

Mr Coveney said the government would be supportive of an extension but he cautioned that he was not speaking on behalf of the other EU states and said it was a case of “wait and see” if any of them raised “issues” with the move.

Addressing a gathering of business leaders in Belfast, he said: “From the Irish Government’s perspective we are supportive of facilitating an extension.

“I think that extension will be a flexible one that will allow the United Kingdom to leave the EU, if they can get a deal done, well in advance of the end of that extension period, which looks like it might be the end of January.”

Boris Johnson has spoken with German chancellor Angela Merkel this afternoon, according to Number 10.

He repeated his view that there should not be a delay and that Britain should leave the EU on October 31.

Mr Johnson has also phoned the European Council president to say again he does not want a Brexit extension.

But after the call, Donald Tusk said he is recommending to the other members that they grant a delay.

Mr Tusk has been ringing around leaders asking what they think of a delay to January 2020.

This afternoon, the Taoiseach said that he will support an extension to January 31.

“There is no extension agreed, the European Union has not agreed an extension for the UK as yet,” he told the Dáil.

“President (Donald) Tusk is currently in the process of consulting the 27 heads of state and government.

“We spoke this morning. He is recommending that we accept an extension until January 31 that could be terminated early if the House of Commons and House of Lords ratifies an agreement.

“I agreed to that but that’s not yet agreed by the 27, and we may have to have an emergency European Council over the course of the next few days to discuss it if he can’t get consensus.

“My bags are always packed for Brussels and packed they are again.”

The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt has said that the Brexit Steering Group has met and is of the opinion that a flextension not going beyond January 31 “is the only way forward”.

“This is an important agreement & the European Parliament needs time to scrutinise in detail, especially concerning citizens rights.”

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